Horry County Schools families wishing to transfer from HCS Virtual K-12 back to the brick and mortar school are going to have the chance to do so this week.
HCS Superintendent Rick Maxey said Monday that starting this Wednesday, HCS Virtual families will receive a message via the PowerSchool parent portal that will allow them to submit a request for their HCS Virtual student to transfer back to their designated base school for brick and mortar learning if space is available.
Requests must be made via PowerSchool by midnight on Sunday, Sept. 20. Students will remain in HCS Virtual until the district contacts their family confirming their request.
“Do not go to the school, you will just have to wait. It could be a day, two days. Depending on the number of requests we get, it could be up to a week,” Dr. Maxey said.
Over 14,000 students applied for HCS Virtual, and Dr. Maxey said that if they counted the HCS Virtual students as their own school district, that district would be larger than 62 other districts in the state.
“It is a large operation,” Maxey said.
If a family would like to put their student in HCS Virtual instead of brick and mortar, there will be an opportunity to be put on a list to do so if space allows, Maxey said.
Maxey said the transferring student will be assigned to either Group A or B for hybrid learning, and parents will not be able to choose which group. The district worked to make sure that all siblings can attend in the same group, across all school levels.
“This is a monumental task,” Dr. Maxey said.
HCS officials said that so far, the number of students in hybrid Group A was 14,336, Group B had 14,302, HCS Virtual had 14,001, and Group G had 1,746.
A few weeks ago, families were given the choice between signing up for HCS Virtual school through the first semester of classes, or attending school in the brick and mortar buildings, in whatever what the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control reports said was the safest.
Horry County Schools released DHEC reports Monday confirming that brick and mortar students will continue to attend schools in a hybrid fashion through September 25. This means the students are split into two groups to aid social distancing, attend school two days a week, and use distance learning the rest of the week.
While brick and mortar students were able to start on September 8 as planned, word went out from Horry County Schools to the HCS Virtual student families the weekend before, that virtual families would be contacted by a teacher the week of Sept. 8 – 11, and would not begin their learning process until Sept. 14.
On social media, parents and educators both showed frustration at a number of HCS Virtual issues, with many parents saying it took a long time for their child to receive a schedule for HCS Virtual.
Board chairman Ken Richardson said that 90% of the phone calls he has received from parents lately were requests to take their children out of HCS Virtual and put them back in the brick and mortar schools.
Richardson said he was very proud of how well brick and mortar schools were doing thus far, but that option was not without hiccups, either.
“There wasn’t one thing she had said she liked about it,” said Carolina Forest Elementary parent John Grimaldi.
Grimaldi said last week that his child said she felt like they were in prison, being made to stay in a parking space outside for distancing’s sake. In gym, the child told him they had to stay in a little box marked on the ground.
“I think it’s way out of control,” Grimaldi said. “It’s getting ridiculous.”
Richardson said he was impressed to see most of the children enjoying being back in school and following the mask and social distancing guidelines well.
Over 14,000 students signed up for HCS Virtual, according to Boone Myrick with HCS.
As for how the hybrid format was going, Richardson said there was still some tweaking to do.
“We’ve got to fine tune this hybrid thing. There’s some stuff we’ve got to get worked out,” Richardson said, noting that he attended meetings regarding HCS Virtual each day from Wednesday to Saturday last week.
Richardson said he’s confident things are moving in the right direction.
“Every week is going get better. I don’t want to be overly optimistic,” he said, saying he thought the brick and mortar students might be back in school five days a week even sooner than expected if the numbers of cases continued to go down each day.
Richardson visited 29 schools since Sept. 8, and said he does not put too much weight on those who comment that the schools and their staff members put on a good face for his visits.
“No one knows where I’m going until I get there,” Richardson said.
He said he first talks to all of the cafeteria and custodial staff, then chooses two classrooms to visit and no one knows anything ahead of time.
“Nobody’s putting perfume on the pig,” Richardson said.
District 5 member Janice Morreale asked what the district would do if 10,000 students opted to come back into brick and mortar schools, and Maxey reiterated that space was the issue, and if there was space, they would try to let as many students back in as they could within social distancing guidelines.
Different schools will have different capacities, Maxey said.
“It’s incumbent upon us even if it means taking the time to make these changes, to make sure these children don’t fall further behind,” Maxey said. “We’ve been out since March. I know this means more work on our part … the bottom line is we as educators are in the business of serving students, and we have students who have needs. It’s our moral and ethical responsibility to make the changes. It serves the children and that’s why we’re here.”
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